OTT advertising is growing in leaps and bounds. Fuelled by the rise in cord-cutting, OTT ad spending has steadily risen in recent years to the point where, according to TDG Research, it’s expected to hit $40 billion by 2020.

It’s a huge opportunity for streaming service providers, and in many cases has been driven by how IP-based content delivery can more accurately target audiences down to the household level. But those targeting efforts are now headed much deeper, and have been led there, in part, by advances in content protection efforts.

Content protection in OTT

The evolution of content protection has changed the game when it comes to what’s possible with targeted OTT advertising, starting with how that content gets to the consumer in the first place.

Many services have introduced a unicast approach to streaming, bringing with it end-to-end content delivery. This is incredibly useful as a foundation for tackling piracy and unauthorised access as it offers full visibility into how a user is engaging with the service.

What’s changing the game, though, is how end-to-end delivery platforms are now being built upon a layer of advanced data analytics. Naturally, this has its own role to play in weeding out illegal access. It’s already proven invaluable for mitigating the game of Whack-a-Mole that OTT TV providers have to deal with in securing their service, and for tackling longstanding issues like VPN usage as consumers try to get around geo-blocking restrictions.

Of course, any tool that helps a service provider to stay on top of content protection is going to be well received. All the more so when you consider the cost of acquiring content rights in the first place, and the impact of piracy through lost revenue, particularly with live sports.

Data analytics is no exception. However, this technology is now being applied to the crossover between content protection efforts and user insights. And this is where things get interesting from an advertising perspective.

Harnessing the network data stream for OTT advertising

The dual purpose of data analytics for OTT, particularly in the hands of mobile operators and internet service providers, has made it possible to delve much deeper into individual user likes and dislikes. This has opened up a range of opportunities for improving the overall user experience and driving more targeted opportunities for ad partners as a result.

The reason mobile operators and ISPs are in such a strong position to capitalise on this is they’ve got a built-in advantage. They’re already sat on huge amounts of data for subscriber usage habits and content access patterns, going far beyond what a traditional pay TV operator that’s moving into the OTT space has in comparison.

It’s a vastly important data stream when used for this purpose, and it’s growing every day as consumers do more on their networks. This data just needs to be harnessed, and processed, in the right way so that it can be turned into actionable insights.

The benefit for media planning

From an advertiser’s point of view, having data analytics baked into a streaming service, and paired with other insights from across the operator’s network, makes it possible to target based on individual audience profiles rather than content. After all, other mediums available for reaching consumers with video or similar media suffer from fragmented audiences that can be difficult to qualify.

Since media planning and ad spend has traditionally had its hooks firmly set in data, this next stage in OTT’s evolution makes it possible to truly know who’s engaging with what ad. On top of this, with unicast technology underpinning the streaming service itself, it’s possible for platform owners to serve up different ads to different segments watching the same programming.

This is rocket fuel for advertisers. They’re able to target the right person, with the right ad, at the right time, no matter who’s watching the content in question – and even if multiple people under the same roof are watching the same content but on different devices.

It creates more relevancy for the consumer too. With research suggesting 75% of consumers prefer seeing fewer ads that are aligned to their needs and interests, it’s a win-win for all involved.

Creating platform loyalists

Going beyond advertising, taking a deeper dive into platform and user analytics is also necessary for turning content fans into platform loyalists. Many consumers will sign up to an OTT TV service for a particular content offering and are at risk of churn after they’ve watched what they came for. But knowing more about the customer makes it easier to create a highly engaging experience tailored to their needs, capable of pre-empting when issues will arise.

Once you’ve got access to richer viewer data, supplemented by content viewing habits, audience demographic, and other user preferences, you’ve got an asset that’s of huge value to the service provider. It’s key to putting the ‘personal’ in ‘personalisation’ in a way that goes far beyond a standard content recommendation algorithm.

Equally, being able to work out if a subscriber is likely to churn, and having the data needed to identify what steps need to be taken to pre-emptively prevent it where possible, has incredible value for the bottom line too.

The future of OTT advertising

Advertisers will naturally go where their audience is. And as consumers increasingly move to OTT for their content fix, the importance of service providers being able to track, manage, and segment their subscriber base is now a necessity rather than a nice to have. Both from a monetisation and user experience perspective.

Ultimately, this is shaping the future of OTT. It’s quickly creating an arena where advertisers are calling for the OTT providers they work with to have access to these insights. And the streaming services that succeed in the long term will be those that can put data analytics at the heart of their offerings.

Nick Fitzgerald

Nick Fitzgerald


Nick Fitzgerald, CEO at TV2U